Monday, January 6, 2014

Best Face Forward

Over the holidays I became a snap-chatter. I wasn't expecting to. Social media is not exactly my comfort zone. But when your kids tell you it's your best chance of hearing from them when they're off skiing for a week, you sign right the heck up.

The first time I heard about snapchat, it was in the form of a warning - it's ideal for sexting because the image you send disappears in a matter of seconds. There's no digital trail, either, no chance of someone seeing sketchy evidence on your phone later. I imagined legions of young people sending grainy images of their private selves…and wondered how long it would take for the rest of the world to ruin it for them. (I mean, look what we've done to Facebook, fellow grownups. It's more yesterday than a Primus concert - the kids wouldn't be caught dead among our vaca photos and inspirational photoshops, and who can blame them?)

Look away! (Facebook)
However, the reality of snapchat is quite different, at least among the kids I know. They apply the quicksilver wit that is this generation's birthright - a combination of irony and self-mockery and laser-sharp cultural criticism that will make anyone over forty lose their mind if they try too hard to plumb its depths - to the text tags and toddler-esque drawings used to enhance their photos. But it's the photos themselves that surprised me.

Ever stumble across the Facebook page of that sweet kid who used to babysit your kids, giving you a heavy-lidded thousand-mile pout from her profile picture, dressed only in a gold lame camisole and lipstick the shade of original sin? Well, snapchat selfies tend to be the opposite of that. They're goofy, and not generally flattering. They invite the viewer in on a joke whose target is, as often as not, the snapper. (Chatter? Hmm.)

Here's my daughter and her delightful friend in a Facebook-suitable game-day photo…

…and here's the same girls in the sort of photo they'd be likely to snapchat.

Of *course* I think they're darling no matter what - I'm a mom! - but I would never have made public an image of myself that was less than flattering, back in the day. I cringe at some of the horrible photos of me that have ended up on the internet, and I'm not the only one; I know authors who demand to see fans' photos of them before giving their blessing to be posted anywhere. God forbid anyone should know I've got gray roots or fat rolls under my bra strap; let no one ever glimpse me in my gym ponytail or reading glasses or with my hand in the Dorito bag.

I think the kids have it right, though. We, their parents, are the generation who agonize over our dating profile pictures, who are tempted to let book covers go out the door with a six-year-old publicity shot, who can strike that turn-slightly-and-put-one-foot-forward pose that every woman knows shaves ten pounds off in the time it takes for someone to whip out their phone. But are we really better for it? 

We know what we look like, and those who love us best do, too, no matter how many times we re-take the reunion photo. The kids are confident enough to go with the first cut, and for the most part I think their selfie-curating is far less stressful for it.

Of course, I probably have read this all wrong and there's layers and subtleties I'm not even close to appreciating. There's a reason I have exactly two snapchat contacts - I am a mom, after all.

1 comment:

Mysti said...

Love it! Good news for the new year, and loving how much smarter then next two generations are than we were.

Warn the kids, some folks have figured out how to foil the "destroyed after XX seconds" thing. Or so I read on the internet: